• Seattle Children’s Uses Data to Cut Costs and Improve Patient Care

    Jason Klein and Andy Dé Oct 19, 2015

    Giving teams across the organization access to real-time data helped the hospital overcome its supply chain and patient wait time challenges.


    Jason Klein_Andy DeWhat processes or outcomes is your organization trying to improve? 

    A few years ago, we faced a dilemma. We saw that our own inefficiencies were slowing our efforts and chipping away at our resources. For starters, our supply chain needed streamlining. Our medical equipment orders didn’t reflect our needs, and as a result, our supplies were hoarded, hidden, and grossly overstocked. We concluded that we could realize significant efficiencies and cost savings from our supply chain and procurement processes.

    In addition, our patient wait times had gotten out of hand. Long wait times not only burden patients, but also hamstring our capacity.

    We had a lot of work to do. But before we could improve any process, we needed to fully understand its flaws and strengths, which is easier said than done.

    Outdated data systems were at the root of problem. A simple dashboard took weeks to make, and the data collected in enterprise resource planning (ERP) reports lacked depth and relevance. In addition, our data was static and difficult to update or customize.

    We saw a significant turnaround in these challenges when we gave teams across the organization access to the latest data to ask and answer questions through a self-service analytics system.

    Who at Seattle Children’s was centrally involved and collaborated on this project?

    This was a cross-functional project involving supply chain analysts, clinicians, doctors, nurses, and IT.

    What improvements or innovations have been implemented?

    Our new insights helped correct the course of our supply chain. We no longer operate based on assumptions; we now make decisions based on need. Our dashboards show what we need and when, how much each item costs, and how much of our in-house supply is at risk of growing stale.

    We’ve also automated procurement to prevent both overstocking and running out of stock. For expensive medical devices, this is extremely efficient and helps us hold precisely the number we need without holding excess or expired inventory that ties up cash flow.

    Data has also helped us reduce patient wait times. When our surgical team visualized patient visit data, they discovered steps they could take to reduce wait times and increase the number of patients served.

    For example, the team looked at some of our rooming practices and saw that delays early in the day cascaded to the rest of the day. Once we became committed to on-time starts, we saw significant improvements in patient waiting times overall.

    What results have you achieved to date?

    We’ve reduced the annual total of rushed special orders by 20,000, and our fill rates—inventory fulfilled or available against orders—are in excess of 98 percent with zero excess, expired, or obsolete supplies.

    Our ability to manage our stock keeping units (SKUs) has improved by 200 percent—from 2,000 before we adopted self-service analytics to 6,000 currently. Being able to track electronically a larger number of SKUs translates into minimal manual intervention by clinicians, and higher cost savings while minimizing waste. In addition, we have completely done away with physical stock taking, which is saving thousands of hours each year.

    Most importantly, we have increased our efficiencies and productivity significantly each year. That means our physicians, clinicians, and nurses can focus on what they do best—engage with our patients.

    We also saw improvements in wait times when we began tracking all of our medical equipment. We created a data visualization to help clinicians track equipment. Knowing where to find items—instead of having to go look for them—saves our clinicians time, which, in turn, helps them serve our patients faster.

    Our increased analytics capabilities have allowed data analysts, business managers, and physicians to use data in different ways and apply it to different problems. For example, early identification of equipment by SKU that are likely to expire or run out ensures that our care providers have necessary supplies with zero excess. The ability to identify equipment by SKUs in real time also eliminates the waste associated with obsolete supplies.

    Clinicians, nurses, and their aides access real-time data on patients during treatment. In addition, our staff members can build their own dashboards and scorecards, which help define what the standard is, track how we are performing against targets, and continuously improve for growth into the future.

    Our data-driven approach not only improves the quality of care but also increases our capacity. By making our processes more efficient, we expand our ability to treat as many patients as possible. At Seattle Children’s, improving quality and capacity are two major steps in our mission to provide the safest, most effective care for every child who needs it.


    Jason Klein is supply chain specialist, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle.

    Andy Dé is general manager, healthcare, Tableau, Seattle.

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